Puntillitas fritas (deep fried baby squid) from AyamonteI feel we are so lucky to be Andalucia´s close neighbours.All it takes is a short boat ride across the Guadiana river from Vila Real de Santo Antonio and there we are, En Espanha.We park the car,board the boat and alongside passengers of various nationalities we experience a ferry boat journey that gives one a real feeling of travelling to another country.It cant be compared to a real cruise but the twenty minute crossing to the other bank of the river is equally relaxing.As one gazes back to the castle of Castro Marim and its fortress we are reminded of other times when the two countries were not so united as they are today.We also imagine what it was like when none of us belonged to the Eurozone and the Portuguese imposed a border guard to combat smuggling.There is even something romantic and a little bit nostalgic,"saudade", about it.Nowadays if we make the 9.5km journey by car (10 minutes)it is usually to combine buying cheaper petrol and to do a big shop at the Mercadona supermarket, followed by a light tapas lunch at Orta and pick up some fino sherry,sausage and whatever other frivolités take our fancy.Breathing the air of Spain and soaking up a totally different architectural style is a novelty in itself and the attraction of tapas beckoning from every calle you walk along is irresistible.Fabio´s incredibly intelligent take on tapas at LPA is an offer not to be refused, or perhaps a more old-fashioned type of tapas at award-winning Casa Barberi overlooking the marina.This restaurant with its sunny terrace celebrated its century this year.The cuisine is real tapas by real old school waiting staff in a charmingly traditional way.Pinchitos ,puntillitas,pulpo and boquerones make you feel you are in another country and having fun.Ayamonte always welcomes us foreigners from across the dividing water and makes us feel at ease.At the end of our excursion when we are wanting a little more silence in our ears,that´s when we feel like returning home and we´re in luck because Portugal is right there."hasta pronto" it says as the ferry pulls away from the quay.Dont you worry Ayamonte we will be back soon,for sure.Meanwhile back home I Rustle up a simple supper to remind us of wonderful hours spent on the other side.When O cozinheiro draws inspiration from Fabio with a bit of traditional Ayamonte thrown in,anything could happen.Here is my hommage to Ayamonte.
|Pico de gallo|
Although Pico de gallo and salsa contain similar ingredients, salsa is more of a “sauce” with more liquid in it, where pico de gallo contains very little liquid and is made with fresh, uncooked ingredients.
There are tons of different ways to make salsa, with a variety of cooked, roasted or uncooked tomatoes, peppers, spices and other ingredients.
Pico de gallo, on the other hand, always contains the same ingredients: fresh and uncooked tomatoes,red onion,coriander and red chillies.
Puntillita (baby squid) taco with pico de gallo
It can be made in just 10 minutes with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, red onion,and fresh chilli.
FOR THE PICO DE GALLO (Makes about 4 cups)
5 Roma tomatoes , diced
1/2 cup red onion , diced
1/2 cup fresh coriander , chopped
4 small red chilli, veins and seeds removed, diced
1 - 2 teaspoons lime juice , to taste
splash of olive oil
splash of balsamic
salt , to taste
Combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeño in a bowl.
Season with salt and add lime juice to taste.
Top on your favorite taco recipe or serve with chips.
Pico de gallo is best eaten fresh, within 12 hours of making it. Store in the fridge.
For 4 portions
4 corn or flour tortillas served warm
Puntillitas 250 g
Flour 50 g
Flor de sal 4 g
To make the little puntillitas well ,and be crispy and not oily, you have to do several things with them, before frying. First, wash them well under the tap,the drain them in a colander. Once clean, it is advisable to dry them well, so that they do not splash and spit during frying and so that they take the flour well without weighing it down.The second part is to remove the quill and the interior, an easy task that is done by pressing the sheath as if it were a tube of toothpaste. This is easily done.When clean, to dry them, spread them on a dishcloth and cover them with another, or use kitchen paper, which is perhaps the best option since very often they still contain some ink and can stain the cloths.Once they are clean and dry,salt them by sprinkling fine sea salt over them and passing them through the flour. If you do not have a sieve to sift them later to remove the excess, it is best to bathe them well in flour and then shake them in a colander or a vegetable strainer with jerky movements that eject any excess flour.Meanwhile,heat the oil, or turn on the fryer at 170º, to enable quick frying at high temperature, which will ensure the little chaps are crispy and do not take on too much oil. Once golden, drain them on absorbent paper and serve them immediately with the pico de gallo on the tacos.